As with most short video clips, there is no clear information about the date and time of the recording. Here is what is clear from the circulating video: there was a traffic incident. A police van ran into Kuti’s luxury SUV on the Third Mainland Bridge.
Kuti and his partner got out of the vehicle. They did not appear to be physically harmed at the time. An irate Kuti, clad in a red blouse and lavish neck jewellery, intruded the personal space of a genuflecting police officer who seemed concerned about the welfare of the Kutis. A verbally aggressive Kuti eventually slapped the officer’s face.
Arrest but nowhere to be found…
The Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali-Baba, then ordered Kuti’s arrest. Police officers reportedly went to his place of residence and the Afrika Shrine, the night-club run by his family, to enforce this order, but he was nowhere to be found.
Prominent lawyer and activist, Femi Falana, has confirmed that Kuti has retained his services and that the musician presented himself to the police on Monday.
SERIOUS ASSAULT ON POLICE OFFICER: SEUN KUTI TURNS SELF IN— SP Benjamin Hundeyin (@BenHundeyin) May 15, 2023
Afrobeat musician, Seun Kuti, in the early hours of today turned himself in at the Lagos State Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja, in company of his lawyer and family representative. He has been placed under arrest 1/2 https://t.co/KDvQIWHupz pic.twitter.com/nRQn0yLmLh
Kuti, 40, also confirmed this on his Instagram page, saying: “I welcome the investigation and will give my full cooperation. I also pray to the IG that whoever is wrong should be indicted.”
Cheers and boos
Kuti’s action has been condemned and venerated on social media. To some, including Nigerian lawyer and award-winning poet Tade Ipadeola, Seun Kuti’s act of aggression is justifiable.
Ipadeola sad on Twitter: “Anyway just so you know, if you ram my car from the rear on 3MB and my family is in that car, just know that you’re best dressed as a civilian. Any useless uniform on your neck is prima facie proof of impunity on your part and you go collect.”
However, musician Peter Okoye, who had a tiff during the just-concluded presidential elections, was reconciliatory and apologetic on Kuti’s behalf. “Dear @PoliceNG, What Seun did was wrong! Please temper justice with mercy!” he said.
The Nigeria Police Force is not entirely free from blame. Perennial agitation for police reform, which culminated in the ENDSARS protests, have not produced any meaningful results. Even so, this does not simplify Kuti’s dilemma involved in a traffic incident with the police whose constitutional duty was to adjudicate in that scenario.
Perhaps a more meaningful question to ask is: What infuriates Kuti to the extent that he would physically assault a possibly armed police officer?
Family no stranger to police
Kuti and his influential family are no strangers to the police. His father, Fela Kuti was detained and brutalised by the police a record number of times, in his more than three decades as a musician and social activist.
Seun Kuti, his last son, was 14 years old when his father passed away from an HIV-related ailment. He has since led his father’s ‘Egypt 80’ band, waxing records and performing on the world stage. Seun Kuti, alongside his older brother, Femi Kuti, and most recently, Femi’s son, Made Kuti, have reawakened their patriarch’s musical legacy. Seun Kuti’s role has been more direct as he was bequeathed his father’s band. He performs his father’s tunes alongside his own original compositions.
Activism to a limit
Seun Kuti’s music is heavily inflected by his activism like his father, but unlike his father, he is yet to go to jail or be brutalised for his beliefs, which he expresses freely on his social media channels. Instead, Kuti has been in the news lately for denigrating his other musical colleagues for their political choices, choice or lack of activism.
Kuti’s emotional dysregulation is well-documented.
In 2020, he was in the news for firing gunshots in his neighbourhood after a scuffle with a party of people. An unidentified man was said to have blocked the entrance to his residence in Allen Avenue preventing him from going out.
“One man that parked came to his car and was arguing with me so I slapped him. Later as I was leaving another car blocked the street after it ran out of fuel; while waiting in my car, one of the bouncers from the hotel came to meet me and threatened my life,” he said on his Instagram page.
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